In an interesting turn of events, the Jets are playing nice leading up to their Week 7 matchup with the Patriots.
Maybe too nice? Well, from a fan's perspective, you could argue that. Anyone will tell you bare-knuckle brawling is far more entertaining than pillow-fighting — well, maybe not in all scenarios, but certainly when it comes to pregame hype. Considering how important this game has suddenly become for both teams, though, the Jets are taking a rather wise approach.
Anyone who has followed these two teams over the last few years will tell you that there exists a bit of animosity between them. Sometimes, you have to dig a little deeper to find it, and other times, you're slapped in the face with it. But whenever the two teams hook up, there's at least a chance you'll hear some verbal jabs, gloating or chatter about how intense the rivalry has become.
This version of "Jets Week" in New England and "Patriots Week" in the Tri-State Area has been uncharacteristically tame, however. Rather than Rex Ryan foot jokes (which have become so lame they should never be told again under any circumstance), or talk of Tom Brady being a hole in one's gluteus maximus, we're left with compliments and praise that makes one wonder whether Gillette Stadium will play host to a football game or a tea party come Sunday.
The Jets' complimentary nature is especially surprising. Not that every word out of their mouths over the past few years has been an insult — Jets players have often had plenty of good things to say about their AFC East rival — but when you think Jets-Patriots, chances are you think of Bart Scott's emphatic, "Can't wait!," before you think of the 150 million generic, Belichickean quotes you're poised to hear prior to each New York-New England showdown.
The Jets' praise this time around started from the top down, with Ryan conceding that Belichick is the NFL's best coach. It's not exactly a hot sports take, but it's a moment of humility from the master of confident self-promotion.
"If it was just between [Bill] Belichick and me, he's going to win that battle," Ryan said Wednesday.
Then, there was Antonio Cromartie's praise for the Patriot Way. The Jets cornerback, who notoriously labeled Brady an A-hole two years ago, actually slapped an "America's Team" label on Tom Terrific's pack of wolves, and even used the term "dynasty" in reference to the Patriots.
"Honestly, you can't say they're not," Cromartie told reporters Wednesday. "Everybody talks about New England. If they're losing they're talking about New England. If they're winning they're talking about them all the time. So I call them the new America's Team."
Brady, meanwhile, returned the favor as he addressed the media, calling Cromartie a "heck of a player" who has stepped up admirably in Darrelle Revis' absence. In other words, he acted in typical Brady fashion.
But is there some underlying message hidden in the Jets' "Patriots Week" demeanor this time around? Maybe not, but it's a far cry from the rampant flapping of gums we're accustomed to seeing when the two teams hook up. The Jets might end up taking a step backward this season with Revis sidelined for the remainder of it, but they're also making strides in the maturity department. In fact, Ryan's refusal to make his usual Super Bowl promise before the start of the season gave the first glimpse.
It seems the Jets have instead opted for a Brandon Lloyd-like approach heading into this week's game.
"I think the best thing is to approach it like any game," said Lloyd, who will take part in the Patriots-Jets rivalry for the first time on Sunday. "The build-up and history is more so for the fans. These are current teams, current rosters. We're not playing against Joe Namath or anything like that. It's a game, and it's an important game."
Lloyd's right, it is an important game. You might not realize it from this week's head-patting, but it should become quite obvious on Sunday, when the Patriots will need to bounce back against a mediocre, yet more mature Jets squad.